Second last in this short series on plants of Japan, today’s photograph with a return to autumn colours for a day is courtesy of stevieiriswattii!@Flickr (original image | | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you!
Through a series of taxonomic twists and turns, Neoshirakia japonica is the current name for Sapium japonicum as accepted by the Flora of China: Neoshirakia japonica. This is in part due to research by Hans-Joachim Esser, summarized here: Neoshirakia, A New Name for Shirakia Hurus. (Euphorbiaceae). In brief, before being sunk into Sapium and commonly accepted as Sapium japonicum, the species had been published as Shirakia japonica. In most cases, when a previously-published species name is to be resurrected due to additional evidence supporting the previous understanding, it would simply revert (so, in this case, back to Shirakia japonica). In the intervening years, however, it was discovered that the genus name Shirakia had already been applied to a fern — and according to the rules of botanical nomenclature, two vascular plant genera can not have the same name. The end result was that the new genus Neoshirakia was published, with Flora of China researchers currently attempting to determine whether it contains 2 or 3 species.
Neoshirakia japonica is known commonly as the Japanese tallow tree, and it is native to Japan, China and Korea. The taxon is mentioned by Bean in Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles, so presumably it is hardy to zone 8 or 9. For this deciduous shrub or small tree (to 8m or so), Bean makes particular mention of “The leaves turn bright crimson in the autumn.”